Sunday, October 07, 2007

USFS's Outdated Wilderness Management

According to the USFS no actions can be taken within the Boundary Waters (BWCAW) for environmental reasons. We are also told that campsite restoration including water bars and adding vegetation to protect Boundary Water's campsite from erosion and/or undesired expansion is allowed. Now a new program within the Boundary Waters has come to our attention- forest service personnel in cooperation with the Friends of the Boundary Waters are identifying and removing exotic evasive plants.

Is not Campsite restoration and controlling exotics within the wilderness being done for environmental reasons? Or am I missing something?

Now please do not get me wrong I clearly support these actions but I am raising this question to point out the hypocrisy of forest service policy which state nothing can be done in the wilderness for environmental reason. Would not a much sounder approach to wilderness management be to throw-out this outdated policy and replace it with a policy that take into account the health of the forest. In other words- wilderness management which allows actions for necessary environmental reasons

Within the Boundary Waters, from the 1890 through 1978 most of the long lived red and white pines were cut thus eliminating most of nature seed source of these species. Then of course there was the Cavity Lake fire that was so hot that most of the jack pine seed source within that area was burned. Whether seed sources are removed by past logging or fires, the only way these native species are going to be returned to the wilderness in any significant numbers is for the Forest Service to change its outdated wilderness management police and allow re- planting or re-seeding were nature seed sources are not available.

Lee Frelich, director of the University of Minnesota's Center for Hardwood Ecology and the leading authority on the natural history of Minnesota's boreal forests, stated in a speech at Vermilion Collage in Ely that "What's more of a wilderness, to have an exotic species like buckthorn take over for the native species, or to go in there and start fires and regenerate species that belong there?" Frelich went on to state that, "the Forest Service also needs to look at reseeding and planting species such as white pine in areas where they are not regenerating naturally.

Further, the USFS's prescribed burns in the Boundary Waters, we are told, are to protect residences living outside the wilderness. That is fine but perhaps there is another reason why some prescribed burns need to take place. If fire is needed for the health of a forest and the Forest Service is going to suppress wildfires that threaten residential areas, how is the health of the forest adjacent to residential area going to be accomplished? The only tool the Forest Service has to answer this question within the wilderness and near residential areas is by prescribed burns.

by Ted Young

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